From the Laws of Man to the Laws of Nature, Olympia Yashiro Bridge and Gateway Corridor, Commissioned by the City of Olympia, WA, 2004

An artistic treatment of a major civic bridge and two neighboring traffic roundabouts. Granite, marble and river rock mosaics, precast terrazzo, fiber optic lighting, drystack stone walls, plant materials.

The Olympia Gateway Corridor connects downtown Olympia, the site of the state Capitol, with the less urban parts of the city. The Yashiro Friendship Bridge spans Budd Inlet. The entire corridor was transformed from a place to get through to a place to go to. Ellen served on the design team for this major public works project, contributing to design details of the bridge, including 3000 square feet of mosaics incorporated into the sidewalks and overlooks. She also was the lead designer of two large traffic roundabouts, 100’ and 70’ in diameter.

Granite and river rock mosaics punctuate the bridge overlooks and a mosaic rivulet runs the length of the bridge, serving as a buffer between pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles. The mosaics on the eastside of the bridge use formal design elements and geometric shapes to suggest the “Laws of Man,” whereas the mosaics on the west side depict elements of the natural world. The rivulet of stone that runs the length of the bridge on the north side also manifests the theme through the progression from large and more formal stone patterns in granite on the east end, down to a trickle of tiny river rocks at the west end. The 760’ rivulet transports storm water across the bridge in heavy rains, mirroring the flow of water below the bridge, while also adding enough width and change of grade to deter the intermingling of wheels and feet.

Drivers approaching the bridge from the west encounter a roundabout divided by two curvilinear walls of stacked, honey-colored quartzite that frame Budd Inlet. The rising and falling berms on each side of the walls are filled with wild flowing grasses. The other roundabout feeds directly onto the bridge and is more structured and formal. It is divided neatly by a 70’ long sloped terrazzo wall that is bisected by glass blocks illuminated with fiber optic light, forming a ribbon of light that leads the driver’s line of sight toward the Capitol Dome. Landscaping here is more formal, with emphasis on a variety of colors and textures of plant material.

This project was recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation with a 2004 Design Excellence award.

Olympia-Yashiro Friendship Bridge mosaic overlook
Olympia-Yashiro Friendship Bridge Overlook Mosaic
Olympia-Yashiro Friendship Bridge Overlook Mosaic